Field Marshal Tantawi discusses with Abu Mazen Palestinian, Arab developments

Moussa says Arab League to ask UN Security Council to impose no-fly zone over Gaza

Israel coming under regional, international criticism for continuing to build settlements

Netanyahu evades Palestinian statehood

Quran burning incident widely condemned

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Armed Forces Hussein Tantawi and caretaker Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to discuss the Palestinian cause and the national reconciliation, state media MENA reported.

The talks covered means of supporting the Palestinian cause in light of recent developments in Egypt and the necessity of holding dialogue among Fatah and Hamas movements to achieve reconciliation and end the internal division, said the report.

Abbas confirmed the strong Egyptian-Palestinian bond and hoped Egypt to tough through the latest situation and regain its regional and Arab role, the report added.

Meanwhile, Arab League (AL) chief Amr Moussa voiced support for Abbas' initiative to visit Gaza to end the division after talks with Abbas.

Moussa announced his intention to accompany the Palestinian president to Gaza to help with the reconciliation process, adding the AL is ready to present all aids to reach an immediate reconciliation.

Abbas arrived in Cairo for a four-day visit to Egypt, the first to the country after its former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February.

The Arab League (AL) said it would ask the United Nations to consider imposing a no-fly zone over the Gaza Stripe to protect the civilians against Israeli air strikes.

In a statement issued after an emergency meeting of the pan- Arab organization at the permanent delegates' level in its Cairo headquarter, the AL said it would ask the United Nation Security Council to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the Israeli aggression over Gaza to lift the siege and impose a no-fly zone against the Israeli military to protect civilians.

The statement rejected the double standard policies towards the Palestinian case, urging the UN Security Council and the Quartet committee to bear all responsibilities for halting the subsequent massacres and provide an international protection for the unarmed citizens.

The AL also called upon the international community to take all necessary measures and procedures to deter Israel from continuing committing war crimes against humanity.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa affirmed after the meeting that the Arabs' stand toward the Palestinian cause remains steadfast despite the recent incidents engulfing some Arab countries.

The AL meeting was held upon a request from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the Israeli attacks in Gaza.

Israeli artillery and helicopters have been shelling different locations across the Gaza strip, killing about 19 Palestinians and injuring 62 others.

Through the Security Council, the Palestinians want " international sanctions on Israel to force it to stop escalation in Gaza and the campaign of terror in the West Bank," said Saleh Ra'fat, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Violence in Gaza started when Hamas, which holds sway there, fired a rocket at an Israeli school bus, critically wounding a 16- year-old student. Hamas later said it did not know the bus was carrying students.

Ahmad Bahar, a Hamas official, said that his movement hopes the AL would take practical decisions stopping the Israeli attacks and supporting the Palestinians. He also called for the lifting of Israeli closure that was imposed on Gaza when Hamas seized control there in 2007.

In Brussels, the European Union (EU) foreign policy chief has joined the U.S. in condemning Israel’s plan to build 942 new apartments in a contested part of Jerusalem, saying that undermines the outlook for peace talks with the Palestinians.

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said that the Israeli government’s action will hurt trust, damage political relations and “run counter to achieving” peace.

Palestinians have refused to negotiate as long as Israel builds housing for Jews in occupied territories the Palestinians claim for their future state.

Israel says the Palestinians should not impose conditions for peace talks.

President Barack Obama met with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Washington, the U.S. government also condemned Israel’s apartment plans.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may withdraw Israeli army troops from the West Bank to block a Palestinian statehood declaration, a report says.

The move is in a framework of measures currently being considered by Netanyahu to stave off recognition by the United Nations General Assembly in September, Haaretz reported.

Source close to the prime minister told the newspaper three steps are currently being examined although evacuation of West Bank settlements is not currently an option.

The first step calls for Israeli forces to withdraw from the West Bank and security responsibility to be handed over to the Palestinian Authority.

The second step is to convene an international conference in which Israel and the Palestinian Authority would participate and call for a resumption of peace talks.

The third step is to garner the support of the United States, European Union, Australia and other countries to prevent the General Assembly from announcing recognition of a Palestinian state, the sources told the newspaper.

During a meeting with European Union envoys in Jerusalem, Netanyahu expressed doubt about chances of renewing the talks.

"But two questions should be asked: the first, whether it is at all possible to resume negotiations with the Palestinians. The second question is what actions can be undertaken if resumption of negotiations proves impossible?" the paper quoted Netanyahu as saying.

Top U.S. officials in Afghanistan condemned the burning of a Quran in the United States that sparked three days of protests in which more than 20 people died.

Burning the Muslim holy book "was hateful, it was intolerant and it was extremely disrespectful and again, we condemn it in the strongest manner possible," said Gen. David Petraeus, who heads the U.S.-led international forces in Afghanistan.

U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry said in a statement that Americans respect the Quran "and all religious texts and deplore any action that shows disrespect to any religious faith."

"At the same time, I want to emphasize, as have many Afghan leaders, that to attack and kill innocent people in response to the deplorable act of one individual is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity," Eikenbery's statement said.

NATO Ambassador Mark Sedwill of Great Britain, meanwhile, called the burning of a Quran by a small Florida church "an act of disrespect to the Muslim faith and to all peoples of faith. It does not represent the views of the peoples or governments of the alliance."

The comments came as clashes in Kandahar, Afghanistan, between police and stone-throwing demonstrators killed as many as three people, including two police officers, and injured at least 10.

Interior Ministry spokesman Zemaray Bashari said one civilian and two police officers had been killed, and that 10 were injured.

The latest clashes occurred during a protest, according to Ahmad Wali Karzai, the provincial council chief who is Afghan President Hamid Karzai's brother, and local elder Haji Abdul Malik. They said one protester died and at least a dozen people were injured.

Karzai strongly condemned the Quran burning and asked "that the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and the U.S. president condemn this action ... in very clear words to the public," his office said in a statement.

U.S. President Barack Obama also condemned the action, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told the CBS program "Face the Nation" that the Senate would "take a look" at the issue.

Reid stopped short of saying the Senate would vote on a resolution, adding: "As to whether we need hearings or not, I don't know."

He called the Quran burning by Pastor Terry Jones in Florida "a publicity stunt" and said: "I think people should understand the consequences of what they do under the guise of religion."